Imagine you are the head of a local business or international corporation. What are the skills your new hires must have? While technological skills such as coding and computer science skills are incredibly important to land the highest paying jobs, social-emotional skills such as empathy, critical thinking, collaboration and teamwork, and interpersonal communication are top skills that make people successful in and out of the office.
Do a quick internet search and you will find countless career websites and interviews with CEOs noting that these skills are highly sought after.
Yet, social and emotional learning (SEL) is seldom explicitly taught to students. Do you remember a teacher showing you how to demonstrate empathy, be a good team member, or write a kind email? Probably not, yet these skills can make or break you in the workplace.
What the Research Says
Evidence shows that SEL helps students persist through challenges, develop better time management skills, and connect with others from a variety of backgrounds more easily, all of which improves academic outcomes. In the long-run, teaching young people strong social and emotional skills has the potential to further a city’s economy by developing a more prepared workforce through active community building, and having a more engaged, critical-thinking citizenry.
Since education is the true cornerstone of economic and workforce development, embedding SEL into the curriculum at all levels is crucial for young people as the next generation encounters a new type of labor market.
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Municipal Leaders Can Promote Afterschool and Summer Programs as Great Places to Teach SEL
One way that municipal leaders can ensure that social and emotional skills are honed is by capitalizing on the informal learning environments where young people spend time. In addition to traditional school hours, afterschool and summer learning programs are excellent opportunities for implementing effective SEL programming because of their ability to foster trusting relationships with adults and peers and be more flexible than the regular school day. Most youth development programs aim to create a general feeling of support to foster building SEL skills, but a new study shows that the more programs intentionally address SEL skills, the easier it will be to align efforts and expectations across settings.
New Tools from the Wallace Foundation
Research suggests that afterschool and summer learning programs that address the needs of the whole child, such as incorporating SEL into their curriculum, see the best youth outcomes. The Wallace Foundation‘s recently commissioned Harvard University research report, Social and Emotional Learning for Out-of-School Time Settings, is a useful resource that describes the elements of evidence-based successful SEL programs while providing tools and strategies that can be applied to any afterschool program. The brief also provides guidance how to evaluate and select afterschool and summer programs. An OST Settings Worksheet guides program leaders through goal-setting and choosing the type of afterschool and summer learning programs they want for their communities.
Researchers find that for SEL programs to be effective it is important for schools and afterschool or summer learning programs to work together; for afterschool and summer learning practitioners to understand different approaches to teaching social-emotional skills; be explicit about how they are supporting SEL; and be proactive about coordinating with school partners.
Four key principals
As guidance for implementing SEL programming, the report provides four principles that are common in high-quality afterschool and SEL programming:
- Providing a positive, safe environment;
- Supporting the development of high-quality relationships;
- Ensuring that programs are developmentally appropriate and engaging; and
- Providing opportunities for direct skill building.
Incorporating the benefits of SEL into high-quality afterschool and summer programs is an effective way to build a more effective program that young people want to attend, and also ensure that all students are equipped with the skills to navigate the complexities of school, life, and finding their place in a quickly-changing job market.
Join NLC’s webinar today
To learn more about integrating SEL and afterschool and summer learning, join the National League of Cities’ webinar in collaboration with the Afterschool Alliance on July 24 from 12 p.m. to 1 p.m. EDT. Hear from the City of Denver’s Office of Children’s Affairs about their citywide afterschool system and how they are now working with the Denver Public Schools and community partners to incorporate SEL practices into their afterschool and summer programs. Click here to register.
About the Authors: Bela Shah Spooner is the Manager of Expanded Learning at the National League of Cities Institute for Youth, Education, and Families.
Tara Boggaram is the Senior Associate for Education and Expanded Learning in NLC’s Institute for Youth, Education, and Families.